Unconditional, eternal, lavish
I was reading about how God loves us unconditionally, eternally and lavishly.
Unconditional, I get – I’ve had grace explained to me more times than I can count. Eternal, I get – God loved us before time, loves us now and will love us always. But lavish?
The thing about growing up privileged but being hyper aware of disadvantage and poverty is that excess offends me. Spending $20 million on your Northern Beaches reno is actually obscene when there are Bolivians struggling to earn $20 in a week. Even in my upbringing, I’ve been raised to live more humbly than lavishly.
Yet God loves us lavishly.
There’s a song we used to sing at my church in La Paz, the chorus of which goes:
Más profundo que el mar
Más allá del cielo está
Tu amor me bastará
Más fuerte que la tempestad
Venció el pecado y la maldad
Tu amor me bastará
(Deeper than the sea
It’s far beyond the heavens
Your love will be enough for me
Stronger than the tempest
It conquered sin and evil
Your love will be enough for me)
And it occurred to me that in this context “enough” is really an epic understatement. It’s like saying a hundred suckling pigs, a thousand kilos of roast vegetables and a million litres of wine will be enough for my dinner.
See, we’re not talking about sufficiency here. What we mean is that his love is more than enough – infinitely more than enough.
Too much. Overwhelming. Lavish.
I had been avoiding The Passion of the Christ since it was released in 2004. Mel Gibson’s film soon became compulsory viewing for churches across the world, though opinion was divided about the violence depicted – was it gratuitously graphic or was it an accurate portrayal of Roman brutality?
I decided not to watch it. I’m not much into blood or sadism. I didn’t need to see thick shards of iron hammered through Jim Caviezel’s hands.
But sure enough, at today’s Good Friday service, they picked all the worst bits of The Passion and montaged them against a haunting soundtrack.
I thought to myself: I have walked into darkness and taken on child abuse, sex trafficking and slavery – surely I can do this.
And so I took a deep breath and decided not to look away.
It was awful. Brutal. People were crying. I was crying.
Jesus’ sacrificial death is essential to the Christian faith. If he didn’t die, there would be no pardon for our sin. But did his death have to be so gruesome? I mean, God never told the Israelites to torture the Passover lamb to death before eating it.
Historically speaking, there’s a pretty good chance Jesus’ journey to Calvary was at least as nasty as Gibson’s visual representation of it. For all the sophistication of their politics and philosophy, Roman times were still harsh times.
Wasn’t it enough for God to give up his only son for our sake? What was the point in making Jesus suffer so much? Nothing in the divine legality of salvation requires that.
And it’s not the divine legality of salvation that defines my life. It’s not a solution to a mathematical equation or the mere fulfilment of a contractual obligation that I believe in.
There are theological explanations for why God didn’t just wave a wand to fix the world’s problems in one fell swoop. But he could have. God, by definition, can do things however he wants. He makes the rules.
Ultimately I think he wanted to show us just how much he loves us. The blood of Jesus is God loving us lavishly.
The blood of Jesus says:
This is how your rebellion flays me.
This is what your betrayal does to me.
This is the price I would pay to bring you back to me.